2 1/2 stars

There’s a heartbreaking moment in the recently released thriller “No Escape” when a young girl in hiding has no choice but to go to the bathroom in her pants as her parents and sister watch on helplessly. It’s an awful moment, one that would be humiliating for any human being, especially for one caught in a situation as terrifying as hers. Horror guru Eli Roth attempts such a moment in his “The Green Inferno,” but he turns a similar moment into a painfully unfunny joke.

InMovie Review Green Inferno Eli Roth poster “The Green Inferno,” a group of pseudo-intellectual, do-gooder college students head out to the Amazon in an effort to keep an indigenous tribe from being tainted by the outside world, but a horrific plane crash during the flight home finds these environmental activists being hunted by the very cannibalistic tribe they set out to protect. Talk about irony.

That’s the setup, and admittedly, it’s a pretty good one. It’s too bad Roth undermines the horror and carnage by way of wooden characters, cheesy dialogue, and ridiculously inane frat humor. Look no further than a scene in which our helpless prisoners stuff drugs in a dead body in the hope that the villagers will get high after consuming the flesh, thereby creating a diversion so they can make a dramatic getaway. No joke.

It’s such a shame because “The Green Inferno” has moments that will no doubt warm the cockles of gore-hounds. An effectively brutal plane crash here, a gruesome cannibalistic feasting scene there. This could have—and should have—been a visceral assault of a horror show. Instead, “The Green Inferno” is a disappointment, and this is coming from a bonafide horror junkie and casual Roth fan (“Hostel” is great and so is the faux trailer for “Thanksgiving”). With this “Cannibal Holocaust” homage, the director of “Cabin Fever” not only wastes valuable resources (stunning locales and actual natives serving as extras are all but squandered), but his latest effort as a whole comes across as a surprisingly limp exploitation movie with weak humor in all the wrong places.

After sitting on a shelf for over a year, “The Green Inferno” finally eats its way into theaters on Friday, Sept. 25.